Daily Health Policy Report

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last updated: Tue, Aug 13

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Health Reform

Capitol Hill Watch

Health Spending And Fiscal Battles

Health Care Marketplace


State Watch

Editorials and Opinions

KHN Original Reporting & Guest Opinion

Obamacare Presents Complex Choices For People With Disabilities

CPR's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The Affordable Care Act has set new standards — called essential health benefits — outlining what health insurance companies must now cover. But there's a catch: Insurance firms can still pick and choose to some degree which specific therapies they'll cover within some categories of benefit. And the way insurers interpret the rules could turn out to be a big deal for people with disabilities who need ongoing therapy to improve their day-to-day lives" (Whitney, 8/13). Read the story.

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Insuring Your Health: Supreme Court Decision On Same-Sex Marriage Leaves Many Couples Awaiting Federal Rules On Insurance

Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Same-sex couples applauded in June when the Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, but they are still anxiously awaiting federal guidance about how the ruling affects health insurance benefits" (Andrews, 8/13). Read the column.

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Wash. Rejection Of 5 Companies' Health Plans Draws Criticism

The Seattle Times' Carol M. Ostrom, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Critics say that Washington state's rejection of individual health-insurance plans from five companies that applied to sell inside the newly created exchange marketplace will limit consumer choices and hurt continuity of care for those with low incomes" (8/13). Read the story.

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Capsules: As Lawmakers Roam Their Home Territory, Health Law Arguments Simmer; Poll: Majority Favors Charging Smokers Higher Insurance Rates, But Not Overweight People; Talking The Health Law's Impact On Hospitals Serving Medicare Patients

Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on how congressional lawmakers might discuss the health law during the August recess: "The battle over the Affordable Care Act shows absolutely no signs of abating, so it's no surprise that the packets distributed by both parties on Capitol Hill for members heading home for the August recess paint the 2010 health care law in starkly different ways" (Carey, 8/13).

In addition, Kelsey Miller reports on a Gallup poll exploring opinions about higher insurance rates for smokers: "Fifty-eight percent of Americans surveyed favor charging smokers higher insurance rates, but only 41 percent would charge overweight people more, according to a Gallup poll released Monday" (Miller, 8/13).

Also on Capsules, a video of Jordan Rau on C-SPAN's Washington Journal Monday. He talks about the latest round of readmissions penalties in Medicare (8/12). Checkout what else is on the blog.

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Political Cartoon: 'Ocean's '14'?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Ocean's '14'?" by Mike Smith.

And here's today's health policy haiku:


So... supersize it?
That's the marketplace motto
as mergers take place.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please send it to us at http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/ContactUs.aspx and let us know if you want to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

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Health Reform

Administration Delays Health Law's Limit On Some Out-Of-Pocket Consumer Costs

The New York Times reports that the change was included in a Department of Labor rule issued in February. Also in the news, KHN details the complex choices the overhaul presents for people with disabilities and Bloomberg notes a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge allowing Oklahoma's legal challenge to the law to proceed.

The New York Times: A Limit On Consumer Costs Is Delayed In Health Care Law
In another setback for President Obama's health care initiative, the administration has delayed until 2015 a significant consumer protection in the law that limits how much people may have to spend on their own health care (Pear, 8/12).

KHN's earlier, related coverage: Consumer Groups Fear Patients Could Be Hit With Large Out-Of-Pocket Costs (Appleby, 4/9) and Federal Rule Allows Higher Out-Of-Pocket Spending For One Year (Andrews, 6/11).

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Presents Complex Choices For People With Disabilities
The Affordable Care Act has set new standards — called essential health benefits — outlining what health insurance companies must now cover. But there's a catch: Insurance firms can still pick and choose to some degree which specific therapies they'll cover within some categories of benefit. And the way insurers interpret the rules could turn out to be a big deal for people with disabilities who need ongoing therapy to improve their day-to-day lives (Whitney, 8/13).

Bloomberg: Oklahoma's Challenge to Obama Health-Care Law To Proceed
Oklahoma can proceed with a federal lawsuit challenging tax aspects of President Barack Obama's 2010 health care legislation, a judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White in Muskogee, Oklahoma, today denied the federal government’s request for complete dismissal of a lawsuit first filed in 2011 over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Harris, 8/12).

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The Countdown's On To Opening Day, But Enrollment Challenges Persist

Stateline reports on the advocacy group Enroll America's plan to focus on 10 states as it tries to get the uninsured enrolled in plans offered on the new online insurance marketplaces. Meanwhile, the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is asking the administration to delay the exchanges because of data security concerns. News reports also detail the latest exchange developments from Ohio, Washington and Texas.

Stateline: With 50 Days To Enrollment, A Focus On 10 States
[Enroll America], which has strong ties to the Obama administration, has been using more than 100 staff and about 3,000 volunteers to go door-to-door and to stage community events this summer to inform people about the opportunities for health care coverage on the exchanges. Its president, Anne Filipic, announced Monday that the group would focus most of its effort on 10 states with the largest number of uninsured and the lowest level of state-funded outreach: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. All but Illinois have Republican governors (Vestal, 8/12).

Dallas Morning News: Dallas Volunteers Spread World About Health Insurance Marketplace
Dallas County has more than 506,000 uninsured residents, according to 2010 U.S. census data, and it is those people, and the underinsured, [Enroll America] hopes to target. Texas has opted out of running a health insurance marketplace, which was created under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. That left it to the federal government to run one for the state, with volunteers and local government agencies to get the word out about enrollment. ... Informing residents about the next steps is critical in Texas, which has the highest rate of uninsured — about 27 percent — in the nation. In Dallas County, 26 percent of people are uninsured. Enroll America is attempting to get the word out the old-fashioned way, by knocking on doors

CQ HealthBeat: McConnell Wants CMS To Delay Exchange Opening, Cites Data Security Concerns
The Senate's top Republican has asked the Obama administration to delay the Oct. 1 opening of the health care law exchanges, citing concerns over the security of the data hub — the information linchpin the new marketplaces will rely on to successfully enroll people in insurance plans (Bunis, 8/12).

The Hill: McConnell Seeks ObamaCare Delay, Citing Security Fears
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that the Obama administration should delay its signature healthcare law because of concerns about data security. McConnell cited a recent report that said the Health and Human Services Department has missed deadlines for testing the security of a newly created data hub. The health law's insurance exchanges should not open until the data hub's security is more certain, McConnell said (Baker, 8/12).

Medpage Today: ACA Exchanges May Aid Quality Reporting
State health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will eventually be a mechanism for delivery reform and quality reporting, an insurance exchange expert predicted. States will eventually use the exchanges' powers to set criteria for health insurers and their providers, which could include such things as requiring participation in alternative payment models, Sarah Dash, MPH, from Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reform, said Friday. "They're basically creating contracting requirements," Dash noted at an Alliance for Health Reform briefing on the ACA's exchanges (Pittman, 8/12).

The Associated Press: Advocates Question Ohio Health 'Navigators'
An Ohio legislative panel on Monday cleared new state rules for professionals guiding people through the insurance marketplaces created by the federal health care law, despite concerns from some consumer groups that the regulations create confusion. The rules stem from a new state law that governs who can be a so-called insurance navigator and what duties they can perform (8/12).

The Seattle Times: Wash. Rejection Of 5 Companies' Health Plans Draws Criticism
Critics say that Washington state's rejection of individual health-insurance plans from five companies that applied to sell inside the newly created exchange marketplace will limit consumer choices and hurt continuity of care for those with low incomes (Ostrom, 8/13).

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Sebelius Signals Openness To State Alternatives To Medicaid Expansion

Speaking to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she is willing to work with states experimenting with new ways to insure poor Americans. Meanwhile, outlets in Virginia and Michigan report on the debate in those states about expanding the program.

Georgia Health News: HHS Chief, Visiting Georgia, Urges Expansion
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told state legislators from around the nation Monday that her agency is open and willing to discuss different proposals by states to expand their Medicaid programs. "We are very eager to continue these conversations with states around the country,"’ Sebelius said in Atlanta during a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (8/12).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Sebelius Pitches Obamacare In Atlanta
The Obama administration’s top healthcare official said Monday she is eager to work with states experimenting with new ways to improve access to health care for millions of low-income Americans (Williams, 8/12).

Also in the news related to the health law's Medicaid expansion -

Detroit News: GOP Lawmakers Criticize Medicaid Expansion Plan, Push Alternatives
Two Republican state lawmakers were joined by other Medicaid expansion critics Monday in attacking the federal Affordable Care Act and urging rejection of a proposed expansion of the government health care coverage program for the poor in favor of their free-market alternative. Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, and Rep. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, said they want to shift all 1.8 million Medicaid recipients in the state and the more than 400,000 uninsured Michiganians into health saving plans and focus state resources on direct primary care (Heinlein, 8/12).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Candidates Using Funny Math On Medicaid
Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe have diametrically opposed positions on whether Virginia should expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. ... Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, is an ardent opponent of expansion and says there are no savings that can be counted. McAuliffe, a businessman who strongly favors extending coverage, includes speculative tax revenue from future economic activity as a form of savings. Neither approach accurately reflects the estimated costs and benefits being weighed by a new legislative commission tasked with overseeing reforms of the state’s Medicaid program and deciding whether to allow it to expand (Martz, 8/11).

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Health Law Political Push Evident In Ad Spending, Enrollment Efforts

Some health law advocates even hope that Oprah Winfrey might join the effort to promote the overhaul.  

Minneapolis Star Tribune/Cox Newspapers: Obamacare Foes, Advocates Spend Millions In Ads
The war over health care is being waged all over again. Supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act -- also called Obamacare -- are battling for American eyeballs in an advertising and outreach war, reminiscent of the 2009 political fight when Congress debated the legislation (Green, 8/12).

The Hill: Does Obama Need OprahCare?
Could Oprah sell Obamacare to America? That’s the question on the lips of health care activists who are hoping the talk show queen will put her considerable influence behind the promotional campaign for President Obama's signature law (Viebeck, 8/13).

The Hill: Health Group's Obamacare Enrollment Drive Targets States With GOP Governors
A leading campaign to promote Obamacare enrollment is targeting 10 states, mostly with Republican governors hostile to the law. The window to begin enrolling in the law’s new coverage options opens in just 50 days. Enroll America, a prominent nonprofit with close ties to the White House, said it’s focusing on 10 states as it ramps up a massive education campaign that will ultimately cost tens of millions of dollars (Baker, 8/12).

CQ HealthBeat: Enroll America Says Outreach Efforts Gathering Speed -- But Finish Line Is Distant
Officials at the Enroll America campaign said Monday that they have the names of thousands of people who want to get coverage next year under the health law, and that they have attracted thousands of volunteers to help in the outreach effort. Despite scathing attacks of the overhaul by Republican politicians in Washington and the states, Enroll America officials also insist that their volunteers aren't getting a hostile reaction when they talk to the uninsured (Reichard, 8/12).

Medpage Today: Obama's Health Law Remarks Get Praise, Jeers
Health policy experts had varying responses Monday to President Obama's recent remarks about congressional Republicans hoping to repeal his signature 2010 health law. At a press conference Friday afternoon, the president said repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would at this point only prevent millions of current uninsured Americans from gaining access to health coverage (Pittman, 8/12).

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Capitol Hill Watch

Lawmakers Brace For Health Law Issues During August Recess

With the overhaul continuing to be a divisive issue, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle -- as well as the measure's advocates and opponents -- have put in place messages and plans to keep their arguments strong.

The New York Times: A Former Engine Of The G.O.P., The Town Hall Meeting, Cools Down
Many lawmakers, often from safe districts, are still holding town halls throughout the month. While a number of them are drawing voters outraged over Mr. Obama's health care law, the intensity is nothing compared to the scale of 2009. But where there are no gatherings, some groups have decided to take matters into their own hands. After seeing a paltry schedule of Congressional town hall meetings this month, another major conservative group, Heritage Action for America, decided it would stage public forums of its own from Arkansas to Pennsylvania. The aim is to recruit people for a group it calls the Sentinels, a citizens' brigade of sorts, to reach lawmakers through other means, like writing letters to the editor, dialing in to talk-radio programs and mastering the language of Twitter and Facebook (Peters, 8/12).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: As Lawmakers Roam Their Home Territory, Health Law Arguments Simmer
The battle over the Affordable Care Act shows absolutely no signs of abating, so it's no surprise that the packets distributed by both parties on Capitol Hill for members heading home for the August recess paint the 2010 health care law in starkly different ways (Carey, 8/13).

Meanwhile, a radio debate showcases the GOP's intra-party schism --

Politico: Karl Rove, Mike Lee Spar On Obamacare
The war over the GOP's strategy to fight Obamacare spilled onto the radio waves Monday as Karl Rove went toe-to-toe with Utah Sen. Mike Lee for an hour on Sean Hannity's radio show. The two men represent the gaping chasm between two wings of the Republican Party on the fall spending strategy. The Utah senator and other conservatives in the House and Senate are vowing to oppose fall spending bills that contain funding for the health care law (Everett, 8/12).

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Health Spending And Fiscal Battles

Budget Deficit Down In Year's First 10 Months

The Associated Press/Washington Post: US Government Reports Budget Deficit Down 37.6 Percent Through First 10 Months Of Budget Year
Still, looming budget fights in Congress are complicating the picture. When lawmakers return from their recess in September, they will need to increase the government's borrowing limit. They will also have to approve a spending plan for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on both measures. Republicans want President Barack Obama to accept deeper cuts in domestic government programs and in expensive benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Obama has argued that Republicans must be willing to accept higher taxes on the highest-earning Americans (8/12).

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Health Care Marketplace

Market Trends: Super-Sized Hospitals And The Emergence Of Free-Standing ERs

The New York Times reports on the current wave of hospital mergers while NPR notes that the emergency room experience is getting a makeover.

The New York Times: New Laws And Rising Costs Create A Surge Of Supersizing Hospitals
Hospitals across the nation are being swept up in the biggest wave of mergers since the 1990s, a development that is creating giant hospital systems that could one day dominate American health care and drive up costs (Creswell and Abelson, 8/12).

NPR: Patients Can Pay A High Price For ER Convenience
Medical entrepreneurs are remaking the emergency room experience. They're pulling the emergency room out of the hospital and planting it in the strip mall. It's called a "freestanding ER," and some 400 of them have opened across the country in the past four years. The trend is hot around Houston, where there are already 41 freestanding ERs and 10 more in the works (Feibel, 8/13).

Earlier, related KHN coverage: 'Wildfire' Growth Of Freestanding ERs Raises Concerns About Cost (Galewitz, 7/15).

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AMA Criticizes Proposed 2014 Medicare Fee Schedule

Modern Healthcare: Reform Update: AMA Blasts New Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, Defends RUC
The American Medical Association has issued a strong criticism of the proposed 2014 Medicare physician-fee schedule, and also fired back against attacks on its widely criticized Medicare physician payment advisory panel. In its summary of the proposed fee schedule, the AMA accused the CMS of proposing "an arbitrary new policy" that would lower payment for more than 200 services that Medicare pays more for when the service is provided in a doctor's office and less when it's performed in a hospital outpatient department or ambulatory surgery center (Robeznieks, 8/12).

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State Watch

State Highlights: Texas Waits For Feds' OK On Higher Medicaid Payments

A selection of health policy stories from California, Texas and Michigan.

Los Angeles Times: Schools Can Administer Insulin Without Licensed Nurses, Court Says
California schools may give students insulin injections and other medications without having to call in licensed nurses, the state's highest court ruled Monday. … The unanimous decision was a defeat for the powerful California Nurses Assn., which had argued that only licensed health care workers could administer medicine under a state law that bars the unauthorized practice of nursing (Dolan, 8/12).

The Associated Press: Calif. Supreme Court Rules In School Insulin Case
Trained school employees can administer insulin shots to diabetic students if a nurse is not available, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday. The ruling reverses a lower court decision that said California law allows only licensed professionals to administer the shots (8/12).

Texas Tribune: State Awaiting Feds' OK To Boost Medicaid Payments
Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, payments to primary care doctors under Medicaid -- the joint state-federal insurer of children, the disabled and the very poor -- are supposed to rise to the same level as rates for Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly. It's an increase intended to encourage more physicians to take on Medicaid patients (Luthra, 8/13).

Los Angeles Times: State Senators Urge Maker Of OxyContin To Turn Over Names Of Physicians
Two state senators on Monday called on the maker of OxyContin to turn over the names of California physicians it suspects recklessly prescribed its pills to drug dealers and addicts. The lawmakers were responding to an article in The Times on Sunday that described a decade-long effort by Purdue Pharma to identify potentially problematic prescribers of its potent and addictive drug (Glover and Girion, 8/12).

Texas Tribune: More Hospitals To Collect Sexual Assault Evidence
Victims of sexual assault will no longer have to travel to potentially far-off hospitals to have forensic evidence collected, following the implementation of a new law this fall. Starting Sept. 1, all Texas hospitals with emergency rooms will be required to have staff trained in at least basic collection of forensic evidence from sexual assault victims (Luthra and Lai, 8/13).

California Health Report: Laws Expand Birth Control Access
Recent federal and state laws strive to make it easier for women to access birth control in California, but clinics and insurers say that the changes have not increased demand for contraceptives. A state law passed earlier this year allows registered nurses to dispense hormonal contraceptives to expand access to women in rural areas, where doctors and nurse practitioners are harder to come by than in urban areas. Federal Affordable Care Act provisions also went into effect in August 2012 requiring private insurers to cover all Federal Drug Administration approved methods of contraception (Flores, 8/13).

USA Today/Detroit Free Press: Prosecutors Seek $9 Million Bond For Cancer Doctor
If a $170,000 bond sounds too high, try $9 million. That's the latest predicament facing Farid Fata, the Oakland County, Mich., doctor charged with, among other things, intentionally misdiagnosing healthy patients with cancer and pumping them with chemo to make money (Baldas, 8/12).

California Healthline: Mid-Levels’ Bill Clears Assembly Floor Vote
The Assembly last week voted unanimously to approve a bill to allow California nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to supervise medical assistants, even when physicians are not on the premises. SB 352 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) expands the authority of mid-level practitioners, but Assembly member Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), who presented the bill on the Assembly floor Thursday, said it does not expand scope of practice for anyone (Gorn, 8/12).

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Editorials and Opinions

Viewpoints: Gov. Jindal Skeptical Of Navigators Program; Scare Tactics Against Obamacare Growing

Fox News: ObamaCare's 'Navigator' Program Ripe For Disaster
By August 15, the Obama administration is expected to spend $54 million of our tax dollars to hire community organizers to push this law on the American people. ... The 'navigators' will be required to take only 20 hours of online course training, which will apparently make them experts on the 1,000 page ObamaCare bill. An HHS official was even quoted this week saying, "We view training as an ongoing process." Count me as skeptical. To make matters worse, these 'navigators' are going to have access to all kinds of personal information that will make the whole program ripe for fraud (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, 8/12).

Madison (Wis.) Capital Times: Plain Talk: Obamacare Lies Keep Getting Louder
Emails arrive almost daily now making completely erroneous and outrageous claims that the new national health law is somehow going to make you miserable. Just in the past few days, the mostly anonymous emails have claimed that if you go to the doctor for a test and it somehow gets messed up at the clinic, you can't get another one because Obamacare won't pay for it. Or if you need a pain medicine, all Obamacare will pay for is aspirin. Or if you're on Medicare, your benefits will be slashed and you won't be able to choose your doctor. This nonsense, in no small way fanned by the politicians who won't rest until they kill health care reform, resonates with all too many people who should know better (Dave Zweifel, 8/12).

The Washington Post's Right Turn: Better Than A Phony Shutdown Threat
Rather than engage in empty threats to shut down the government as some of Sen. Mitch McConnell's Republican colleagues are, the Senate minority leader is advancing a strong argument for Obamacare delay aimed at enticing Democrats to join in the effort. McConnell’s office explains in an e-mail that "Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General's report last week that said CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has missed multiple deadlines for testing and reporting data security risks in connection with signing up for insurance on the government's health care exchanges" (Jennifer Rubin, 8/12). 

California Healthline: How Will ACOs Share Liability Risk?
Like their predecessors in health care's parade of acronyms -- HMOs and MCOs -- ACOs will need to balance quality patient care with saving money. When that balance is questioned by consumers and inevitably by the courts, how, exactly, will the risk be shared? … We asked stakeholders what could or should be done at policy-making levels -- ranging from congressional and state legislatures to ACO leadership -- to encourage innovation while balancing quality of care and cost-effectiveness in ACOs (8/12).

Tampa Bay Times: Denying Health Coverage Isn't Progress
By refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature left a million poor residents without health care coverage and turned away billions in federal money. Senate President Don Gaetz sent a list of questions to the Obama administration this summer that ask for more flexibility and has not received a response. The administration should answer with a resounding "no," because states should not be given a loophole that allows them to deprive some needy residents of coverage (8/9).

Los Angeles Times: Anthem Says: Here's Your Health Insurance; Oops, Never Mind
Jennifer Frankenberg recently learned that she had been approved to receive much-needed health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross. She also learned that she'd been denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. All in the same day. On one level, this is a fairly routine story of corporate incompetence. But it's also a stark illustration of what's currently wrong with our healthcare system and some of the ways that the healthcare reform law, for all its imperfections, addresses these problems (David Lazarus, 8/12). 

Los Angeles Times: Raise The Cap On Malpractice Awards
For decades, advocates of tort reform have pushed to limit the amount that courts can award for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering. The California Legislature first capped this type of damages in medical malpractice lawsuits in 1975, and roughly half the states have followed California's lead. This summer, however, nearly 40 years after California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act first limited noneconomic damages in malpractice cases to $250,000, trial lawyers and consumer groups have unveiled a ballot initiative that would relax the cap considerably (Nora Freeman Engstrom and Robert L. Rabin, 8/13).

The Washington Post: Malaria Vaccine Shows Promise
When approached with the concept for producing the PfSPZ malaria vaccine , Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, thought it technically unfeasible. Actually, he called it "crazy." His skepticism was overcome in a stunning feat of biomedical engineering, offering the prospect of life and health for millions (Michael Gerson, 8/12). 

The Wall Street Journal: Take Two Photos And Call Me In The Morning
In studying the history of medicine, physicians honor major turning points in medical technology, such as Laennec's stethoscope in 1816 and Röntgen's radiograph X-ray in 1895. What goes unmentioned is that we are enjoying a golden age of palm-size iWonders. My own smartphone is stocked with apps that include complex pediatric dosing, advanced life-support algorithms for optimal resuscitation and specialized textbooks for late-night reading. Now there is even an app that lets doctors transform their cellphones into ultrasound machines. But the simple camera phone is epochal in that it puts the power—literally—into the hands of patients (Dr. Valerie Gribben, 8/12). 

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Competitive Bidding Is No Medicare Fix
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) substituted its current pricing methodology with an unfair new process for setting prices known as "competitive bidding." The idea behind this policy is to lower costs and reduce fraud in the system, and these are commendable goals. But what resulted was bad public policy that not only fails to fix the problems it was meant to solve but also creates a host of new problems. I have been in the medical supply business for over 40 years, and never before have I seen a program that so dramatically threatens the ability of medical suppliers to meet the often-complex needs of our patients (John Teevan, 8/12).

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Stephanie Stapleton

Andrew Villegas

Lisa Gillespie
Shefali Luthra

The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.